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Friends of the Elder Theatre are asking you to help


For 40+ years, Becky Miller has been the steward of the Elder Theatre, but that time is quickly coming to an end. We need your help to keep this piece of the fabric of Jackson Center alive as we look to convert the theatre to a nonprofit owned and operated movie theatre. 


The Challenge

Across the country, we’re seeing the erosion of community. Be it a neighborhood in a large city or a small town that is slowly losing its connection to the past, each subsequent generation has less and less connection to what made our communities what they are. Shelby County and Jackson Center aren’t immune to this phenomenon, many of us remember the Tiger’s Den, IGA, and Phil’s Cardinal Market. How many classes went to Hobo’s for breakfast after prom, or a trip through the Pit Stop for a drink and pizza? Even Friends (the Corner Bar) no longer exists. More recently, The Veranda closed and no restaurant since has been able to sustain. Primary Eyecare’s building still sits empty after years of being closed and next door, Subway is empty. How much more can our community afford to lose before we are no longer a community, but just a collection of houses?

One of the things we learned from COVID-19 is that long-term isolation is bad for us. Even introverts need an opportunity to be in a social setting to avoid depression and other mental health issues. Suicide rates increased during the extended pandemic shutdowns, can we afford to lose more of our ability to gather and share experiences?

The Solution

We face a new challenge in Jackson Center and northern Shelby County. For the past 80 years, the Elder Theatre has been a staple of the county. A place for social gatherings and entertainment. Now, after 40-plus years of stewardship, Becky Miller is ready to retire. She placed the theatre up for sale towards the end of 2022 and no one came forward to purchase it. That indicates that should someone purchase the building and business; they would likely be from outside of the community. One day when driving through town, we may just see the marquee read, “CLOSED” and that would be the end.


We have the opportunity to make a difference. We can purchase the theatre and own and operate it as a locally controlled nonprofit. Not only would we preserve the theatre, but we would have countless options to expand services and utilize the theatre even more as a community asset. During the graduation ceremony in 2000, the valedictorian said, “and we went to the theatre on both Friday and Saturday night, because that was all there was to do,” let’s make sure future generations also have this option. That we have a vital community asset that keeps kids from getting in trouble and continues to operate at a family-friendly price. 


The Impact

The Elder Theatre is adding to the economic impact of our community. Studies show that a local, single-screen movie theatre draws from an area of approximately 25 miles. That means Anna, Botkins, the Indian Lake Region, and even up to Wapakoneta and as far south as Sidney, individuals and families are coming to Jackson Center to see a movie and spend their money in our community. Positioned as one of the most affordable options in the region, the Elder Theatre is already profitable and as the pipeline of movies continues to fill up over the next few years and get back to pre-pandemic levels, the Elder will continue to provide for itself.


Historically, the Elder Theatre has served more than 10,000 people per year. On average that’s $100,000 in direct economic impact for our community. Utilizing American’s for the Arts survey results, we can expect an indirect economic impact of around $200,000, between babysitters, dinners, and more. Not only does the Elder have an economic impact, but it has already been a rallying point in the community. In 2013, cinema shifted from 35mm film to digital and with it, theaters across the county were told, “Go Digitial or Go Dark”. Together the community helped raise a significant amount of the necessary funds to save the Elder Theatre. 


This is just the start of the potential that a nonprofit-run theatre could do. Unlimited possibilities exist like adding, historically recognized films in the American Film Institute’s AFI 500, a cult classic film series, or even a special Halloween series, all while keeping Shelby County’s only full-time first-run theatre in business. 

In Back to the Future they wanted to “Save the Clock Tower” for Hill Valley, now it is our turn to Save the Elder Theatre in Jackson Center. Become a donor today!  

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